He had some bad pitches, leading to a lot of balls, but he was baffling them enough that they could not do anything with his pitches. And it probably helped that their one big rally ended with Fielder out at the plate, don't know what the coach was thinking there, but that was huge, it probably knocked the Tigers back on their heels, took a little air out of them with that gut punch. Still, that was the only major threat where they came close to scoring.
So he had a 5 PQS start, a DOM start, and Fister did well do, a 4 PQS, also a DOM start. That is five straight DOM starts for Giants pitchers, and 7 of 8. And fifth straight games that the Giants pitcher out-pitched the other team.
Gotta give props to Hunter Pence too. He was involved in both runs scoring in the game, first as the runner scoring, then as the RBI guy with yet another sacrifice fly by the Giants (they were the leaders by a margin in this particular category). Some fans seem tired of him and what not, but he's been a really good hitter throughout his career, and I think he'll bust out for us at some point, but for not, I'll take this, because without both runs, Madison's great outing would have been wasted and who knows then what would have happened. Instead, Giants victory, now up 2-0 in the series, needing only two more.
But, like many of the players have cautioned, you need four to win, and look at what the Giants did in the playoffs, the Tigers could do the same.
Game 3: Vogelsong vs. Sanchez
Ryan Vogelsong: Vogelsong has been dynamic this postseason, sporting a 1.42 ERA in three starts, but he saved his best for Game 6 of the NLCS. The righty tossed seven innings of one-run ball and struck out a career-high nine and heads into the World Series on fire.
Anibal Sanchez: Sanchez needs no introduction to the NL, having spent his entire career in the Senior Circuit before joining the Tigers in late July. He's been pretty good lately against the AL, too, blanking the Yankees for seven innings in Game 2 of the ALCS.Anibal has a great history against the Giants, as a Marlin. This is probably why he's pitching game 3, he would get the game 7 assignment if it went that far. In 5 starts, he has a 1.98 ERA, 3-1 record, with 2 shutouts. In 36.2 IP, he gave up only 25 hits and 8 walks, while striking out 37. Though he did give up 4 homers. But one of those games was a big bust, 5 runs in 5.1 IP in Florida.
And that the oddity there, he has pitched great in AT&T (0.36 ERA, 1 ER in 25 IP), but not as much at his home in Florida, so you have to wonder why he is starting game 3 instead of game 2, especially since he has the history of doing well there, though he has done well in Detroit too, overall, 3.47 ERA in 6 starts there, all this season, great 33/10 K/BB ratio or 3.30. And he has generally done better at home than on the road, 3.56 at home, 3.92 on the road.
Against hitters, he is roughly equally good, but actually better against LHB: .258/.319/.411/.729 vs. RHB; .253/.331/.369/.699 vs. LHB. So LHB find it easier to get on base, but harder to hit for power. Still, either way, hitters find it a hard time hitting against him. A few players have extensive ABs against him, and mostly have done poorly. Pagan is .261/.320/.391/.711 in 25 PA, Pence is .333/.333/.389/.722 in 18 PA, Huff is .077 OPS in 13 AB, horrible. Theriot in 10 PA has .222/.300/.778/1.078 due to a triple and homer, Blanco has done better, .571/.667/.847/1.524 in 9 PA, with one triple. He has tamed everyone else he has faced: Posey .347 OPS in 9 PA, Nady 2.89 OPS in 7 PA, Arias 1 for 5, Belt 2 for 6, .667 OPS, Sandoval 1 for 6, Crawford 0 for 5 with 4 K's. He's going to be a tough nut to crack.
What more wondrous magic can Vogelsong weave? He has faced Detroit once in his career, in Detroit last season, and he did well enough, as he always do, 6.2 IP, giving up 4 hits plus 4 walks, but 5 K's, giving up 2 ER. Infante, being traded from the NL, has 11 PA, and a .636/.636/.636/1.273, 7 for 11, no strikeouts. WOW! Avila was 0 for 1 with 2 walks. Cabrera is 1 for 3; Dirks 0 for 2 with 2 strikeouts; Santiago 0 for 2; Young 1 for 3; Fielder 0 for 2.
Against hitters, he has been better against RHB, .233/.289/.337/.626 in 2011 and .230/.297/.357/.653 in 2012. Not as much against LHB, though still good, like Sanchez above, .258/.335/.391/.727 in 2011 and .254/.321/.402/.722 in 2012. On the road, he had a 3.57 ERA in 2011 and 3.87 ERA in 2012, so still pretty good.
With Fieldin Culbreth as home plate umpire, Vogelsong has been aces in the last two seasons. In 2011, 6.2 IP, giving up 7 hits and 1 walk, striking out 5, and in 2012, 6.0 IP, giving up 5 hits and 1 walk, striking out 4. Both games, shutouts. However, Sanchez has not been: 2 games, 9.0 IP, giving up 17 hits and 5 walks, striking out 10, 10.00 ERA. He just got blasted in both games with Culbreth as umpire.
This should be a tight game, much like game 2, except that this one is expected. The Giants will need to take a similar approach as they have apparently done in games 1 and 2, being more patient at the plate and working the count. Both have had a very good season with PQS, with DOM's over 60% each, and relatively low DIS, and both have done very well during the playoffs, Vogelsong especially when the Giants needed someone to stand tall and climb on his shoulders. He did not bend then, he should not bend now. But neither should Sanchez.
Sanchez is actually the Tigers second best starter by PQS with a 68% DOM and 13% DIS, very similar to Vogelsong's 65%/13%. However, he's also not a big strikeout pitcher, and Vogelsong is more of a strikeout pitcher, with 18 K's in 19.0 IP so far in the playoffs, 8.5 K/9, Anibal was at 6.7 K/9, similar to his seasonal 6.9 K/9. But when Vogelsong is on - like he has been during the playoffs, 1.42 ERA - he is very dominating, as evidenced by his league leading ERA throughout much of the season until he hit his bad stretch.
As the Umpire Turns
The wild card is the umpire. As noted, Vogelsong has had great success when Culbreth was behind the plate. Meanwhile, on the other side of the spectrum, Sanchez has had great failure when Culbreth was behind the plate. This is very similar to the situation in game 1, when Zito had had a good outing this year with the umpire, while Verlander has had trouble with the umpire previously, and if that trend continued in this game as well, particularly for Anibal, the Tigers could easily find themselves down 0-3.
Even if Sanchez does well, will the Detroit bullpen hold up against the Giants offense? As uncertain our rotation looked going into the playoffs, that is where their bullpen has been during the playoffs. Their closer is unable to close, forcing them to go to a rather pedestrian reliever in Coke, who has not shown much in the way of great talent of relieving on a seasonal basis yet, though he clearly has done well in the short term during the playoffs.
And he does have a nice 8.5 K/9 and 2.83 K/BB, both very good stats. He was just very unlucky with a 11.8 H/9 for the season, which was a .400 BABIP, that most probably is an aberration, but he has had high BABIP previously, .339 in 2010 and .321 in 2011, so it is not like he's been that good before. But in any case, good peripherals or not, he hasn't been that good a reliever during this career, 4.05 ERA and his K/BB is 2.23, which is good but not great, you ideally want your closer to be at least 2.4, at minimum (per Shandler's boo).
In the end, the bullpen costed the Tigers game 2. And in using Smyly as the first reliever, Leyland might have costed the Tigers the game, as he was used as a starter during the season and was probably not that prepared to be a reliever, it does take a different mindset. For example, during the season, Smyly had a 3.79 ERA as a starter in 18 games, 8.31 ERA as a reliever in 5 games. As a starter, he has a good 8.3 K/9 and 3.38 K/BB, but as a reliever, his K/BB was only 0.86, really horrible.
So the Giants need to do what it has been doing the past two games, take more pitches, work the count, get the starters out sooner, so that we get into Detroit's bullpen, the sooner the better.
Why Giants Kept Affeldt and Lopez
There were many Giants fans who did not understand why the Giants spent all that money on two lefty relievers when they could have signed Beltran with that money (plus a few million more, they usually forget). Hopefully these playoffs show how important it is to have relievers you know and can rely on. Just because you sign a cheaper free agent who look like they might be as good does not mean that you will get it.
The Giants kept them because there is value in knowing what you are getting, you would think that Giants fans who groaned about picking up Benitez would understand that one, as reliability in a reliever is important, and if the Giants decided that keeping them was worth the extra money, we should respect that opinion, because teams have shown - research on The Hardball Times Annual - that they understand their prospects better than any other team, and thus the same should go for their own players and who they decide to keep or to let go as a free agent.
Heart of a Hunter or Heart of Cold Cash
And just because you have the best hitter ever in playoff history, perhaps there is a reason why he's never made it into the World Series despite playing with a number of different teams, and played in the playoffs a number of times. He had a chance to be on this team, the Giants were willing to play ball with him, any intimations made by him that the Giants did not pursue him is clearly baloney prevarication that he threw out there because the Giants didn't want to get leveraged by him and his agents and he was just getting back at them. He chose to wait until he and his agent could leverage the remaining teams looking for his services for top money. I think that shows, more than anything, where his heart lies.
Contrast that with what Hunter Pence's main theme on his rallying huddles with the team were about: being there for your teammates so that you can play another game with them tomorrow. I think most people should be able to understand the difference.